New York Giants: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Quarterback
On Friday, May 30, the New York Giants released quarterback Josh Freeman, a former first-round selection (2009, 17 overall) who threw for over 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns just two seasons ago as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
Upon his release, Freeman's inability to pick up new concepts quickly—not a new citation—has been to blame.
Still, the release of Freeman, a proven NFL starter, says a lot about the other three quarterbacks remaining on this roster.
It says that New York is still confident in its starter, Eli Manning, even as he recovers from an April ankle surgery. It also says that New York likes what it has in Ryan Nassib and Curtis Painter in potential backups.
Manning, Nassib and Painter all made the 53-man roster a season ago, but that's not likely to be the case in 2014. The three will compete (to some degree) for positioning this summer, and the worst of the three will not make the team.
If the Giants keep only two quarterbacks, as they have in the past with Manning and David Carr, then a roster spot will be available to carry an extra defensive lineman or special teams standout, giving New York an additional ounce of flexibility.
This slideshow will break down the Giants' entire quarterback situation, highlighting and analyzing the three players involved from top to bottom.
Eleventh-year quarterback Eli Manning is "far ahead" of his ankle recovery schedule, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.
Even though Giants general manager Jerry Reese had declared Manning out for spring workouts, head coach Tom Coughlin said he is "not surprised at all" that Manning is already on the field (per Schwartz), participating at an eager and able level.
"It’s very important for me to be out there," Manning told the Post.
He's talking about workouts during voluntary organized team activities, but you'd think he's commenting on his availability for the conference championship.
Manning is a professional, but his performance a season ago screamed the contrary. Last season was embarrassing for Manning as well as the rest of the Giants. Now, he invites Ben McAdoo's fresh scheme with enthusiasm not often found in 33-year-old quarterbacks. He told the Post:
This year, having a new offense definitely made me want to be out with the team, out running plays. Just little things, calling plays in the huddle, hearing the play called and having to visualize it quickly and if you miss part of the call, be able to kind of figure out what it just by knowledge of the offense. All those things were important.
It is this exact attitude that makes Manning the consummate starter. A decade into his career, Manning still treats practice as reverently as the playoffs. He wants to be on the field throwing and handing off the ball, no matter the capacity. He is counted on, win or loss, to quarterback his team, as he has done it now for 151 consecutive games, the league's longest active streak by a quarterback.
This isn't a rededication to the game; it's Eli with new, better-fitting pieces of the puzzle surrounding him. The same Eli that swallowed the pain of a significant shoulder injury early in a Super Bowl-bound 2007 campaign. The same Eli that was cornered into calling himself "elite," then backed up his rare boast with a second Super Bowl title.
If Manning was backed against a wall before, he now finds himself dangling from a cliff.
Beneath him? A rocky fall from grace and a valley full of has-beens.
This is the situation in which Manning truly thrives.
McAdoo, who is only three years Manning's elder, will like having a veteran quarterback as his on-field extension. Both men have something to prove in 2014—McAdoo, that he can cut it as an offensive coordinator in the NFL; Manning, that he can once again quarterback a winning team.
Manning's fit as the team's starter is more guaranteed than that of a Men's Wearhouse suit, and no pathetic ankle sprain will keep him from gobbling up as many first-team reps as possible. Now, paired with a young, up-and-coming offensive mind, Manning could tap a secondary talent reservoir, unlocking a late-career surge.
I'm willing to bet the old dog can learn more than a few new tricks.
Ryan Nassib, a 2013 fourth-round selection (110 overall), has his own mission: to become Manning's backup.
It's not as valiant an effort as Manning's is to reclaim Super Bowl glory, but it is still an important one. If Manning was ever to go down, like he did in Week 17 last year, the Giants would need to leave the offense in the hands of a capable backup until he was able to return.
Manning may be the most reliable passer New York has had since Phil Simms, but that doesn't mean the city is without the need for another Jeff Hostetler.
It looks like Nassib will have every opportunity to win the backup role this summer, and early indications say he is already the front-runner for the job. Kieran Darcy of ESPN New York tweeted that most of the second-team reps in OTAs have gone to Nassib, not Curtis Painter or the recently released Josh Freeman.
Nassib's development is encouraging. The Giants traded up to draft him in the fourth round, only to carry him as extra baggage on the active roster last season. Nassib was kept inactive all season, as the Giants favored him over anyone who could have actually made a difference in 2013.
This focus on the future was frustrating for Giants fans. The trade and somewhat high selection of Nassib made little sense when coupled with GM Jerry Reese's hope that Nassib "never plays," according to the USA Today.
Little an NFL general manager does ever makes sense, but this was one particularly befuddling situation.
Was Nassib actually drafted to become Manning's successor in New York? Were the Giants manicuring some trade bait behind Manning?
Most everyone thought the move to get Nassib had some sort of ulterior motive, somehow related to Manning's future with the Giants. In reality, I think Reese was actually straightforward when describing his hopes for Nassib in 2013, and I doubt they have changed since. A viable backup quarterback becomes a more valuable commodity as the veteran starter ages.
To succeed in the NFL, a good team must have a reliable contingency plan at all positions. Nassib can be just that for the Giants at quarterback, but not much more yet. Even if Nassib is to one day supplant Manning in New York, the Giants will struggle with him in the starting lineup if that day is tomorrow.
Curtis Painter now finds himself in a battle for his football life. Unfortunately for Painter, he's playing the underdog and will only make the team if something goes horribly wrong with Nassib's development.
But it's not like Painter's entire future rests solely on Nassib's performance. Even if Painter does not make the roster in New York, he can put on an impressive enough showing in the preseason to earn a backup job elsewhere—I think a starting job is out of the question at this point.
In 2011, Painter took over Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts for eight games, losing all eight. Last season, Painter relieved Eli Manning three times. The first two times were when New York was on the wrong side of blowouts with the Carolina Panthers (Week 3) and the Seattle Seahawks (Week 15), and the final time was when Manning injured his ankle against the Washington Redskins (Week 17).
In those three games, Painter attempted only 16 passes, completing only half of them. None of his 16 tosses went for a score and two were intercepted. The limited action Painter saw in 2013 yielded a mind-numbing 57 passing yards for the Purdue product, a sixth-round selection in 2009 (201 overall). He was competent enough, however, to preserve a 20-3 victory in his appearance versus the Redskins.
Little Painter has ever done on the field, at the NFL level, warrants his acceptance on a 53-man roster. Those roster spots are highly valued, and, to be frank, Painter is hardly worth a spot as a third- or fourth-stringer in this league. The fact that Painter was kept over Freeman says more to me about Freeman's epic decline than it does anything about Painter's ability.
It's like the Giants are trying to make it as easy as possible for Nassib to win the backup role. If the second-year player can't beat out Painter for this job, then the Giants will really be in trouble if Manning is ever injured and unable to play.
It's not that Painter is worthless, it's just that his worth is extremely minimal in New York. If everything goes according to plan, Painter will make a good punching bag for Nassib this summer, then he will resurface on another team's 90-man roster at this time next year to do it all over again.
*All statistical information courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.